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Don't become just another statistic when the clocks change

 Published 26th October 2019
Driver Guides 

It's that time of year again when we all get to enjoy an extra hour in bed. When the clocks go back at the end of October that's usually the first thing most of us think about.

It's so much nicer to think about snuggling under the duvet, rather than the fact that each year, the number of people killed and seriously injured on the country's roads spikes immediately after the autumn clock change, due to the suddenly-darker evenings.

The autumn clock change plunges evening journeys into darkness literally overnight, at the same time as other risk factors such as lower levels of alertness for motorists, inexperienced drivers, and children's tendency to take their time wandering home from a busy day in school.

Clock change = accident spike

Each year, when the clocks go back in the autumn, there is a marked spike in the number of vulnerable road users killed and seriously injured. In 2017, pedestrian deaths rose from 37 in September to 46 in October, 63 in November and 50 in December. The casualty rate for all road users increased from 520 per billion vehicle miles in October, to 580 per billion vehicle miles in November. That's just the figures for a single year but the same pattern is repeated annually.

Analysis has shown accident rates among motorists driving between 5-8pm in the weeks directly following the October clock change can increase by upwards of 30%. The clock change brings with it a number of challenging driving conditions beyond the reduced daylight. The onset of rainy and wet conditions, dazzling from headlights, wet leaves, reduced visibility and not driving to the road conditions all impact on accident rates.

Nobody is immune to the additional risk either. Male drivers are 37% more likely to be involved in an accident; female drivers see a 30% increase in accidents in the ‘home time' rush hour after the clocks change. Young drivers who speed at night are three times more likely to have an accident than those who speed during the day. Scotland, Lancashire/Yorkshire and the Northern counties have the highest increase in accidents between the hours of 5- 8pm after the clock change at 50%, 49% and 46% respectively. There's a 35% increase in accidents in Wales and 34% in the Southern counties.

It doesn't really seem to matter who you are or where you live, the risks of having an accident increase when road conditions are poorly lit, wet and slippery.

So what can you do to minimise the additional risk?

There are a few simple precautions you can take to make sure you get the benefits of the clock change without any of the unpleasant consequences. And make it home safe and sound.

  • Drive below the speed limit to give yourself more time to react to hazards such as cyclists without lights, pedestrians in dark clothing.
  • Don't dazzle other drivers: keep your lights clean and turn your headlights on before sunset. Keep your interior light off and avoid leaving your main beams on. If you need to turn on your fog lights at any point make sure you turn them off again when they are no longer required.
  • Keep your windscreen clean to avoid increased glare and prevent you being dazzled by oncoming vehicles. And keep the water reservoir topped up with screenwash.
  • Slow down: reduce speed to correspond to the amount of water on the road, as heavy rainfall leaves roads wet and slippery which reduces tyre grip and increases the risk of skidding, even for careful drivers.
  • Avoid hard braking and turning sharply for better control of the vehicle and to avoid wheel locking.
  • Hang back: allow ample stopping distance between the cars in front as stopping distances are doubled on wet roads. Motorists should be at least four seconds behind the car in front; 10 seconds when driving on icy road surfaces.

Follow these simple rules and the only thing you will have to worry about when the clocks change is what to have for breakfast after your extra hour in bed.

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